23 March 2006

the good, the bad, and worrisome constructions of the ugly

the good:

yesterday, i received an email from swat pal eileen that said, in part, "I'm hosting a political parlour game night this weekend for Traction, a group here in North Carolina working to create a fun social space for progressives in their 20s and 30s (with a long term goal of effecting behavior change). Hence our dodgeball team (dodgeLeft), a party called 'Drop Beats not Bombs', and slightly more serious events, like a hands-on workshop on how to weatherize your house."

she went on to ask for ideas for politically oriented adaptations of parlour and party games. anybody? anybody?

i think traction has the right idea about how to do progressive politics in cynical or otherwise difficult times. i particularly like the way that eileen phrased this: "a fun social space...with a long term goal of effecting behaviour change." there are other groups somewhat like this: drinking liberally is one, and lord knows that's a concept i endorse. but traction, so far only a north carolina group, seems more geared towards creating real social networks of the type you might find in, oh, say, a church. this is non-trivial. shooting the shit in a bar once a month or so, when it's convenient, etc., might make you feel better, but it's the creation of mutual concern and obligation that actually gets the political job done. furthermore it's the creation of mutual concern and obligation of the sort that fulfills rather than depletes that gets the political job done. activists who are somehow putting themselves through paces are ineffective. [just ask my union organizers. sigh.]

the bad:

or rather, the cool calling of attention to a particularly bad phenomenon. behold the STRAWFEMINIST! (found that link via bitch, ph.d.) aside from the amusing illlustrations (stick figures downing buckets of drink! hott!), it's a good, short introduction to the wild contradictions that characterize lots of thinking about feminists and feminism.

...and how fat is still a feminist issue:

there are ninety-seven comments and counting on i blame the patriarchy's "hot mama" post. the post itself is a response to a particular, ayelet waldman-inspired brand of mommyblog that laments the ickiness of the children and celebrates the wonder of the husband. interestingly, those two threads are all bound up in some seriously disturbing ideas about how women should look. that is to say, some poor woman argues that if she gains weight at any point after her marriage, then she has committed the mortal sin of "false advertising." that's gross. but more interestingly, the comment thread, at a brief glance, seems not to have taken up the following hypothetical:

what if she and her husband had mutually agreed to be that particular brand of shallow? or: what if this "false advertising" concern miraculously became gender-neutral?

in comments, terry says in part: "...I have the opposite problem. I got pregnant, and it apparently tripped some binge-eating circuit in my husband. Long story short - he has gained about 140lbs in the past 2 1/2 years. When he was, say, 70lbs overweight, it really didn’t bother me a lot. But now, I really can’t stand it. ...the other part of it is that he is still steadily gaining weight. He’s 35 years old, and within a year will likely weigh 400lbs. I want very much to believe I am not this superficial, although perhaps that is the reality."

twisty responds: "The solution to the problem you describe is, I think, beyond the scope of the radical feminist blog. Your reaction to your husband’s sudden weight gain and the weight gain itself are separate issues. The fat acceptance gang at Big Fat Blog may have a few insights for you."

my questions, as yet un-worked-through, are: where does terry get her idea that she has an "opposite" problem? is twisty right that fat acceptance, per se, is beyond the scope of radical feminism (or at least, of the radical feminist blog)? what are the different meanings of fat*woman and fat*man? are they actually different? certainly it's obvious that judgments about body size affect women to a greater extent than they affect men. women are less realistic about their body sizes than men (biased upward, duh) and less happy with their body sizes at any weight. in the world we live in right now, women are (generally) expected to worry about "false advertising" and men are (generally) not. but is it somehow a problem that can be fixed by concentrating on those who are most oppressed by it? and, being as body and gaze are pretty much inescapable, how do we think seriously about whether and when we continue to love the bodies that our partners' souls are attached to?